Two good-government organizations and the Senior Executives Association have recommended strengthening rotational programs and other ways to prepare for entry into the SES, typically the highest level achievable by career federal employees.
“OPM should develop and provide agencies with leadership and skill assessments for incoming and aspiring executives that reflect government’s current talent needs and private sector best practices. OPM also should press agencies to strengthen succession planning and make developmental opportunities more widely available to GS-11 through GS-15 employees,” says a white paper from the SEA, Partnership for Public Service and the Volcker Alliance.
“Rotation programs, joint duty assignments and cross-sector collaborations are valuable strategies for developing leaders with a broad perspective and an enterprise-wide view of government. The administration should do more to promote such assignments by requiring SES candidates to demonstrate experience in another agency or sector before joining the SES. Congress can support this effort by authorizing the use of public-private rotations in addition to current authorities available under existing authorities such as the Intergovernmental Personnel Act,” it adds.
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The paper also recommends creating a separate promotional track into senior level and senior technical positions for those who are specialists more in technical matters than in executive leadership; also, it says that OPM should require agencies to regularly review SES positions to determine whether they should be SL or ST positions instead. While the SES was designed as a cadre of management experts, a recent MSPB report pointed out that in practice, agencies put a high emphasis on technical expertise in addition to management skills when hiring into the SES.
Other recommendations include reviewing the “executive core qualifications”–the general standards for candidates for all SES positions–to “ensure they reflect the most current thinking on the skills federal executives need to be successful”; boost on-boarding programs for those newly promoted into the SES; and link SES performance ratings more closely to leadership-oriented skills than to technical skills.